Opioid Crisis and Faith

Opioid Crisis and Faith
Between 2001 and 2016 there was a 345% increase in opioid-related deaths in the United States. In New Hampshire, opioid deaths exceeded highway deaths. We cannot overstate the magnitude of the opioid crisis in the United States. Why is this happening, and what can we do about it?

Not everyone starts using opioids for the same reason. Doctors prescribe the drugs for many people due to pain from an accident or surgery. Some never manage to get off the drugs, adding more and more to achieve a level of comfort they feel necessary. Many get opioids by raiding someone’s medicine cabinet or buying them on the street or from a friend or associate who is selling the drugs.

The bottom line in all of this is what a person believes to be necessary to achieve a state of comfort or well being. Education and psychological help seem to be the greatest need for younger people to avoid the opioid crisis. Dr. Joseph Lee who is the medical director for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Youth Continuum points out that genetic predisposition can be an issue. For that reason, teens need to know if other family members struggle with addiction. Dr. Lee also says that teaching children how to relate to the people and the world around them is critical.

Having a strong faith in God is not a guarantee that a person won’t have an opioid addiction problem. However, churches do have a unique opportunity to provide education about opioid addiction to a broad cross-section of society. People with strong religious faith also can be agents to help others get out of addiction.

Christians Against Substance Abuse (CASA) offers courses and a nationwide list of halfway houses. They also provide a directory of Faith-Based Substance Abuse Recovery and Support Groups in the United States. They have an extensive prison ministry that we work with in our own apologetics prison courses. You can see more on their website at kingscrossingprisonministries.org.

Another good source on the opioid crisis is a special issue of Citizen magazine in August of 2018, available from Focus on the Family 8605 Explorer Drive, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80920, phone 800-232-6459. You can also find information online HERE.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Can Design Have Multiple Purposes?

Firefly- Can Design Have Multiple Purposes?
Can design have multiple purposes? That is a question asked by some scientists in a study led by Jesse Barber of Boise (Idaho) State University. The specific design feature they studied is the flashing light of fireflies. Do they have more than one purpose for their flashes?

We always believed that a firefly flashes its light to attract mates. That is reasonable and true, but it is an oversimplification of what the flashing does. Many times living organisms have a warning system built into their design to let predators know they are not good to eat. Barber and his associates suggested that fireflies taste bad and that the flashing warns predators not to eat them.

To test this theory, the researchers put bats that had never been around fireflies into a cage with fireflies. The bats learned in two or three interactions that a flashing bug is not good to eat. Barber says the bats quickly did a routine of “catch, taste, drop.”

Barber’s team then painted the flashing end of some lightning bugs with two coats of black paint so the bats could not see the flashes. Bats faced with the painted fireflies took up to 45 minutes to learn not to try to eat them. It seems evident that the flashing of a lightning bug has more than one function.

Can design have multiple purposes? This study answers that question with a “Yes.” Designing a system that has multiple benefits is engineering at its best. God’s design in nature is amazing! The more we know of the creation, the closer we get to the Creator and the more we see His planning and design.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
This study was published in August 22 Science Advances which you can read HERE.
Science News reported on it in their September 29 issue (page 4) which is available online HERE.

Natural Disaster and God

Natural Disaster and God Every time natural disaster strikes anywhere in the world, people tend to blame God for what happened. The current examples are the hurricane in the panhandle of Florida, and the catastrophic earthquake in Indonesia. What atheists and skeptics fail to realize about natural disasters is that the vast majority of catastrophes are due to human ignorance and mismanagement. Both of the current crises demonstrate that point.

The major loss of life and devastation in Indonesia is in an area that was built on a restored landfill. Gravel, sand, and dirt were brought in to make living space for what were mostly poor workers and laborers. Engineers have warned for a very long time that the land under the highly populated area was unstable, and the earthquake was enough to cause that land to move in a significant way. You could call this a human-designed natural disaster.

In America, we have the same situation in New Orleans and Los Angeles. New Orleans is built on an area that is soft and prone to flooding, and part of the city is even below sea level. Los Angeles is built in an earthquake active area riddled with faults. It isn’t a question of whether a severe earthquake will happen in the Los Angeles area, it is just a question of when. There will be a catastrophe when that happens, and God will be blamed for causing it.

Hurricane Michael is a demonstration of another human-caused natural disaster. One of the designs of our planet is the method which brings water to areas that would otherwise be a desert. At the equator, the direct sunlight evaporates ocean water which falls as rain causing tropical rain forests. The remaining dry air moves north or south in what is called the “Hadley Cells.” When that dry air cools and returns Earth’s surface at 30 degrees latitude, it produces desert conditions. Most of the world’s great deserts are found at 30 degrees north or south latitude–the Sahara, the Australian Outback, the Mohave, etc.

In the southeastern United States, 30 degrees north latitude runs through northern Florida. That area would be a desert were it not for hurricanes. The heating of the ocean in the summer is sufficient to lift massive amounts of water which are then carried to the land restoring lakes, rivers, and underground aquifers. Without that large water supply system, that area would be a desert like the Sahara. The land area around the Gulf of Mexico in its pristine state had barrier beaches and mangrove forests that moderated the wind and storm surge. When I was a child living in Alabama, we looked forward to “hurricane parties” when we would “button down” and enjoy not having to work. The storm’s damage was limited, and even the storm surge was never a problem. That was 80 years ago.

Since that time, we have modified the shoreline stripping the barrier beaches of vegetation, and building houses where they are easily destroyed by water or wind. Even the vast mangrove swamps that were a buffer to storms have been removed, and channels have been built lined with aluminum houses, golf courses, and boat facilities. It was an invitation for a natural disaster.

We are sympathetic to those who have suffered because of the greed and foolishness of city planners and real estate salespeople. But don’t blame God for the foolishness of human actions.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Sexual Exploiters Dirty Dozen

Sexual Exploiters Dirty Dozen Can Reach Kids with Smartphones
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has listed 12 supposedly kid-friendly apps and games which in reality set kids up for sexual exploitation. Their sexual exploiters dirty dozen are:

SNAPCHAT – Users send texts and photos that disappear within seconds unless the user takes a screenshot. These contain popular sexters and child pornographers.
STEAM – A gaming platform with over 35 million child users which contains rape and other sexually explicit acts.
YOUTUBE – Lax monitoring of uploaded videos, many of which contain sexually explicit and violent content.
AMAZON – Sells photography books with child nudity, sex trafficking manuals, and soft-core porn.
COMCAST – Packages offer hardcore pornography including teen, incest, and racist themed porn.
EBSCO – This online library for schools features easy access to pornography and graphic sexual content.
HBO – Original programming often focuses on graphic sex scenes, including rape and other sexual violence.
iBooks – This app for e-books is replete with erotic literature normalizing adult/teen sex, incest, racially charged sexual stereotypes, student-teacher, and babysitter sex scenes and rape.
ROKU – This company offers users access to hardcore pornography through private and hidden channels.
TWITTER – Hosts pornographic accounts that advertise for porn websites and online prostitution.
POSTER BOYS OF #MeToo – Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Woody Allen and James Franco use their media channels to normalize their sexual conduct.

Parents, teachers, and caregivers need to be sure to know what sites young people are using. There are many more dangerous sites, channels, and games besides the sexual exploiters dirty dozen. You can find more on this at endsexualexploitation.org. We adapted this information from an excellent article in Citizen magazine for October 2018, pages 23-24. You can read it HERE.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

What Can We Trust?

What Can We Trust?
The October 2018 issue of Scientific American (page 39) contains an article by Brooke Borel titled “Clicks, Lies and Video Tape.” The article begins by stating, “Artificial Intelligence is making it possible for anyone to manipulate audio and video. The biggest threat is that we stop trusting anything at all.” Then what can we trust?

The article tells us that in April 2018 a new video of Barack Obama appeared on the internet in which he spoke looking exactly as he did when he was president of the United States. The image we could all see was Obama facing the camera, and with outstretched hands, he said, “President Trump is a total and complete XXXXX.”

In reality, it wasn’t Obama at all, but an actor named Jordan Peele who used BuzzFeed News to produce a fake video. The technology is now available to make realistic-looking fake videos. They can contain what appears to be known political characters spreading disinformation. In fact, this is already being done.

The first example of fakery was the serpent in Genesis 3, and Satan has continued to use this tool throughout time. In 2 Corinthians 11:13-14 Paul writes, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” The truth is that we cannot trust anything in the physical world. The evening news is full of falsehoods and agents of Satan.

As Christians, we would encourage others to understand that while humans can be bribed, bullied, and deceived. What can we trust? The word of Jesus Christ is true and testable. It can be trusted 100%. What a joy it is to know that we have a rock that is God’s word. If we trust God, all of the deceit and lying of men and of Satan himself cannot mislead us.

“All scripture is given by God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness that the man or woman of God may be complete, totally furnished to guide us into all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

How Many Bugs Are in Your Home?

How Many Bugs Are in Your Home?
Would you like to guess how many bugs are in your home? In the fall of 2017 researchers from the California Academy of Sciences published a survey of the bugs in 50 homes in and around Raleigh, North Carolina. The researchers took 10,000 samples from basements, bedrooms, kitchens, and attics. They identified 579 species from the 304 families of arthropods known to science. Arthropods include insects, mites and, spiders.

The researchers found ants, carpet beetles, gall midges, and cobweb spiders in 100% of the homes. In many of the houses, they found booklice, dark-winged fungus gnats, cellar spiders, scuttle flies, and dust mites. Misha Leong who was the lead author of the study says that most homes contain hundreds if not thousands of individual arthropods.

It is interesting that as people move toward buying organic and buying in bulk, they are increasing the bugs in their homes. Indian meal moths, for example, can contaminate oatmeal or chew through a sweater. They lay eggs in our food and closets, and the larvae chew through packaging leaving a mess of silk and frass (waste) behind. If we use the food quickly enough we eat the eggs, and since they don’t hurt us, we don’t even know they are there.

The reality is that we have and will always have lots of bugs in our homes. Many of them are beneficial to us. Booklice, for example, eat fungi and mold. Spiders eat insects and other harmful agents including flies and mosquitoes. Harmful spiders like the black widow and brown recluse are rare. Studies have also shown that many of our chronic diseases are related to our failure to be exposed to biological diversity. Leong says, “Rooms with more kinds of arthropods may be healthier rooms.”

God did not place us in a sterile world. The more we learn of what we live with each day, the more we realize the complexity of life. Living with bugs is essential to our long-term survival. How many bugs are in your home?
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Genesis 1:1 and the Creation Week

Genesis 1:1 and Zion Canyon
Because it was not God’s purpose to give details of the creation of the universe, Genesis 1:1 covers it in one sentence. “Reshith Elohim bara shamayan erets.” Those are the Hebrew words translated: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This is a historical statement which says there was a beginning to everything in space and on Earth. Those few words tell us that God was the cause of the creation. The creation included a planet with everything that we would need to exist and flourish–carbon, oxygen, water, coal, oil, nitrates, etc. “Erets” refers to a functional planet–not to a blob of gook.

As we drove through the canyonlands last month (see earlier posts), we saw how God prepared the Earth and the physical, chemical, and biological agents He used. It is interesting to see that dinosaurs, as well as many microscopic forms of life, were the gardeners who allowed all of this to happen. Without dinosaurs, there would have been no agents to process the giant plants of that day and spread their seeds. Without tiny diatoms, there would have been no agents present to form the oil and other fossil fuels that we need. Notice that Genesis 1:1 is untimed and undated! How long did it take? When did it happen? The Bible doesn’t say.

In Genesis 1:2 we see that the earth needed to be formed. The word translated “earth” is the same Hebrew word “erets” found in verse 1. This second usage is clearly different, however, because Genesis 1:9-10 indicates that God separated this earth from the water, meaning that it refers to the earth people live on, not planet Earth.

In the following verses of Genesis, the “days” of the “creation week” give specific explanations of the origin of the plants, water creatures, cattle, goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks the ancient Israelites knew. Each Hebrew word refers to known and domesticated animals, not unknown animals. Days are used to provide continuity to the sequence in which God created life. How long those days were, whether they were consecutive or had long time-periods between them can be debated endlessly.

The fact is that the first verse describes the creation made by God with the things humans would need to survive on Earth. As we said, that first verse is untimed and undated. All of the studies of geologists and biologist as to how those resources were produced are covered in that one verse of Genesis 1:1. The creation week is a description of the actual production of humans and their domesticated animals.

On our trip into the canyonlands, we saw the power, wisdom, and planning God used to allow us to exist. Proverbs 8 presents wisdom as the causal agent of creation–not blind mechanistic chance. Theological claims that create conflict between God’s word and the display of His wisdom and design are due to human error, not to the Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Conflict Between Scientific Evidence and the Bible

Conflict Between Scientific Evidence and the Bible- Petrified Forest
For the past two days, we have been reviewing some of the things we saw and learned on the Canyonlands Educational Tour of last month. We explained our approach to the physical evidence of creation and all of the Scriptures that tell what happened. We say that the two sources must agree. If the same God who gave us the Bible also did the creating, they cannot disagree. If there seems to be a conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible, we either have bad science or bad theology or both. And there has been plenty of both.

There has been great conflict between the physical evidence that the Earth is very old and denominational interpretations of the Bible’s creation week. As we visit the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, the Painted Desert, and the Petrified Forest, the massive amount of evidence that the Earth is much more than 6,000 years old becomes obvious. So how do we resolve this apparent conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible? If we are not locked into those denominational belief systems, we can take the Bible literally. By that we mean, look at who wrote it, to whom they wrote it, why they wrote it, and how the people it was written to would have understood it.

Genesis was written in the style of Hebrew poetry to all of humanity–those living in the days of Moses as well as those living in the 21st century. We cannot expect the account to deal with quantum mechanics, because the people of Moses’ day would not have understood it. The animals described in Genesis are animals that people of Moses’ day would know. Don’t look for duckbilled platypuses, echidnas, penguins, or dinosaurs in the Genesis account. Don’t look for descriptions of stellar production of heavy elements or evolution of stars or even continental drift.

We could list hundreds of things that you would not expect in the biblical account because the ancient Israelites would have no way to understand them. Furthermore, there would be no reason to give such details, and the Bible would be too heavy to carry. For that reason, the Bible begins with the single sentence: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” That sentence prepares the reader for a simplified description of the actual production of humans and their domesticated animals on the planet we call home. There is no conflict between scientific evidence and the Bible when taken literally. We will have more on that tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton

God’s Engineering Skills

God's Engineering Skills at Sunset Crater
Yesterday we began to tell you about last month’s Canyonlands Educational Tour. It was a week of learning about how God works. In the canyonlands area, we can see God’s engineering skills.

Our trip was a bus tour with 50 people participating. We departed from Flagstaff, Arizona. That area allows us to study the basic rocks from which all other rocks were made, and that is volcanic material. Our analysis of elements in space and the minerals in Earth’s crust show us that all rocks are made of materials found in the interior of the Earth. For example, granite is made up of quartz which breaks down into sand and makes sandstone. Orthoclase is another constituent of granite, and it weathers to produce clay which is a major part of shale. Visiting Sunset Crater (pictured) and seeing the volcanic mountains surrounding Flagstaff allows us to understand the method by which God produced all other rocks.

In the first session of our trip on Sunday evening, before we departed, we pointed out the one basic assumption that underlies our entire trip. That assumption is that God is not a magician who does everything by slight of hand and magic. We see God’s engineering skills as He uses natural processes to produce things in the creation. The Bible tells us that “God planted a garden” (Genesis 2:8) not that He waved a magic wand and a garden appeared. When God created man’s body in Genesis 2:7, he “formed man of the dust of the earth.” The Hebrew word used to describe that process is yatshir which is a word denoting something an artist might do in creating a work of pottery from clay.

God did not “zap” the Grand Canyon into existence with all its many kinds of rocks and embedded fossils. Many religious people want to have God “speaking” these things into existence. The Bible indicates that God commanded the creation elements indicating that other agents were doing the actual work. In our twenty-first century mentality of rejecting scams and con-artists, it is important not to put God into the role of being a trickster. God did His creating process in such a way that we can discover the processes. That is the reason the Bible says we can “know God exists through the things He has made” (Romans 1:20). In Proverbs 8, wisdom personified speaks of God’s engineering skills.

We see the evidence of God’s engineering skills in the creation processes, and we read the Scriptures that tell what happened. Our approach to all of the evidence and the Scriptures is that they MUST agree. If the same God who gave us the Bible also did the creating, they cannot disagree. If there seems to be a conflict between the scientific evidence and what the Bible says, we either have bad science or bad theology or both. There has been plenty of both.

Tomorrow, we will continue to examine more of the things we saw of God’s engineering skills during our week in the canyonlands.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Canyonlands Educational Tour 2018

Canyonlands Educational Tour
One month ago, on Sunday, September 9, 2018, we began our thirty-sixth Canyonlands Educational Tour. Since 1968 we have been taking what I call field trips into the Grand Canyon and the areas that surround the Grand Canyon. That includes Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Canyonlands National District including Lake Powell, Meteor Crater, Painted Desert, Petrified Forest and the areas that surround all of those places.

My constant companion and technical expert has been Alan Doty from Sedona, Arizona. He holds advanced degrees in geology and has been a well-known figure in the area and an active Christian. Alan has made over 300 trips to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and was the first to climb Isis Temple. His knowledge of the area is second to none. Our trips into this area have included four boat trips on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, ten bus trips in which we spend a day at each of the sites of interest, and 16 hikes into points of interest in the canyonlands area. We have prepared field trip guides and have conducted studies and lectures on all of the trips.

Why do we do this? The Does God Exist? ministry is dedicated to providing evidence to convince thinking people that science is a friend of faith in God, and that science and the Bible do not conflict. As educators in the public schools, we have seen a great deal of bad science and bad theology combine to destroy the faith of many young people. There is no area where more bad science and bad theology have been promoted than in the canyonlands area.

Not understanding the evidence and not taking the Bible literally have led to a major source of conflict for many people. By taking the Bible literally, I mean looking at who wrote the passage, to whom they wrote it, why they wrote it, and how people of the time would have understood it. Having a week of concentrated study in one of the greatest natural science laboratories on Earth is a wonderful way to combat bad science and bad theology. It is also our hope that participants will go back home and use what they have learned in our seminars to build the faith of people in their home congregations. At the same time, we want to prepare them to combat the efforts of local skeptics to discredit the Bible and destroy faith in God.

Over the next few days, we want to give you a glimpse of what we did on this year’s Canyonlands Educational Tour.
–John N. Clayton © 2018